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Neighborhood decked in flags

Layla Rycek, 11, of Austintown, right, and grandparents Patti and Steve Burbrink, place flags outside a home in the Starwick Drive neighborhood in Austintown. Along with neighbors Jane Tallman and Bob Fowler, the group placed more than 500 flags in the neighborhood to celebrate the Fourth of July.

AUSTINTOWN — The more than 100 houses and several condos of the Starwick Drive neighborhood are ready for the Fourth of July holiday, thanks to the efforts of a few “proud Americans” in the neighborhood who lined the streets with American flags.

Patti and Steve Burbrink, granddaughter Layla Rycek, 11, and neighbors Jane Tallman and Bob Fowler spent several hours placing the flags around the neighborhood at the end of June.

The flags once adorned the graves of veterans interred at Calvary Cemetery in Youngstown. Patti’s sister, Susan Krawchyk, is the executive director at Mahoning County Veterans Service Commission, and asks the Burbrinks to volunteer to remove flags from the cemetery after the holiday. Usually the flags are burned and replaced the next year.

“We decided we were going to keep some of them — I didn’t know it was going to be like 600,” Patti Burbrink said.

Fowler, a Navy veteran who served from 1964 to 1968 on the USS Wasp, an aircraft carrier that looked for Russian submarines and picked up astronauts, also helped to remove flags from Calvary in past years.

The Burbrinks and Fowler started placing flags in their own yards and then did the street. Now, with two years of cemetery flags at their disposal, they expanded to the whole neighborhood.

“We got a lot of compliments, and we actually got a ‘thank you’ card from one of the neighbors,” Steve Burbrink said.

The group put the flags out for Memorial Day and then collected them, but this time placed a flyer in neighbors’ mailboxes asking each house to hold onto their flags and put them back out around Veterans Day.

Prior to the Fourth, Steve Burbrink used a long-bit drill to drill holes for the flags, and Patti Burbrink and Fowler followed. Layla drove a tractor with a cart to help bring along. supplies .Tallman saw the crew putting out flags this year and offered to help — supplying a wagon to hold flags. She said she was happy to be a part of the process.

“I think personally we are so blessed in this country,” Tallman said. “I looked online and there has been almost 3 million casualties of all the servicemen and women that served our country. The freedom we have — we are so blessed to have that, every one of us.”

Tallman’s deceased husband was an Air Force veteran, and she keeps a bronze marker and a flag in her yard all summer long in his memory.

Layla said she also liked putting the flags out.

“I love that people aren’t taking them out and aren’t complaining — because some people like to complain because they have to cut grass around it,” Layla said.

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